minute break dragged on for twenty-five. Miss Carswell stuck
her head into the room but withdrew it when she saw that no
one had returned.
Finally they came back. Dr. McCallister's lawyer had a sealed
bag with three tear gas pens in it. It could see them through
the transparent plastic, but I didn't see my Esterbrook.
Miss Carswell came back in right after the school folks and
their lawyers. She sat down and took out a fountain pen and
notebook again, but this pen was different. It was kind of
marbled blue, actually closer to turquoise in color, and I
thought it was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen in my life.
I kept staring at it just because I couldn't keep my eyes
Suddenly I felt a tug at my arm. "Jason, pay attention,"
my mom whispered, and I looked up to find Miss Carswell's
eyes fixed on me.
"Jason," she said, "would you come up here,
"Yes, ma'am," I replied and stood up immediately.
I walked over to the desk and stood looking at her, waiting.
She didn't say anything, but extended a small plastic bag
and asked, "Jason, is this your pen?"
I took the bag and looked at it. The pen was definitely not
Grandpa Edgar's Esterbrook. It was a green pen all right,
but the color was the only thing it had in common with mine.
I looked up at her and shook my head. "No," I replied.
"It's not my pen. I don't think it's an Esterbrook at
all. I'm not sure it's even a fountain pen. Besides, that
pen has a cap on it, and the cap to my pen is in my pocket."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the pen's cap and
offered it to her. She took it, looked at it, and handed it
back to me.
Her face got really grim, but all she said to me was, "You
may sit down, Jason. Thank you."
As I walked to my chair, I felt as if the temperature in the
room dropped twenty degrees.
"Mr. Willard, Dr. McCallister, what is the meaning of
this?" Miss Carswell's asked softly, but her voice sounded
like a whip cutting through the air.
"A mistake, Miss Carswell," Dr. McCallister replied
smoothly, but there was a touch of strain in his voice. "Mr.
Willard must have accidentally picked up the wrong pen."
"Yeah, that's right," Mr. Willard replied, looking
down at the floor. "Sorry about that."
A silence of about thirty seconds followed. "Very well,"
Miss Carswell replied. "You will bring the right pen
when we re-convene after dinner."
"After dinner?" Dr. McCallister echoed. "Will
that be necessary?"
Miss Carswell stared at him. "After dinner," she
I felt my mom squeeze my arm. When I looked up at her, she
looked elated,, but I felt a little sick to my stomach. Why
hadn't they brought my pen?
"What I'd hoped to do," Miss Carswell announced,
"was get a look at the tear gas pens and the Esterbrook
to see if there was any grounds whatsoever for mistaking one
for the other. However, that will not be possible at the moment."
I looked at her with a perplexed expression. She had two fountain
pens with her and I was willing to bet from the way she'd
talked about pens that she knew lots about them and had others
at home. So why didn't she just say that a green Esterbrook
looked as much like a tear gas pen as Dr. McCallister looks
like Miss America?
"Jason, please do not grimace at me," she said severely.
"I know what I'm doing."
Dr. McCallister saw her reprimand of me as an opportunity,
so he jumped up. "Miss Carswell, it's exactly that sort
of behavior that got him into trouble at school."
She glared at him, and her expression was nearly as perplexed
as mine had been just a couple of seconds earlier.
"Excuse me, sir," she said in a soft but cold voice,
"but as far as I understand the matter, the issue here
is not whether Jason made a face at you but whether he brought
an object that violated a valid regulation to school and whether
that regulation was enforced fairly."
The principal's face got very red, but he sat down without
saying a word. I looked at his lawyer who was writing furiously
on a yellow legal pad with a mechanical pencil. The pencil
reminded me that I wanted to get a closer look at the fountain
pen Miss Carswell was using. I looked up and made eye contact
with her. She narrowed her eyes in response, and I looked
away. Just because she had and used fountain pens didn't mean
she was on my side, I reminded myself, but I found myself
hoping that she could at least be fair. Then it hit me. I
didn't just want her to be fair. I wanted her approval. I
felt my face flush. I wanted her to like me just the way I
wanted Mr. Harmon to like me. I was so shocked by my sudden
insight into my feelings that I almost missed what happened
"Before we break for dinner, however," she continued,
"I'd like to ask you a few questions, Mr. Willard."
I was still lost in my own astonishment at my sudden insight
into my feelings when Mr. Willard stood up and crossed his
arms over his chest. His motion brought my attention back
into the moment "Ask away," he said, glaring belligerently
at Miss Carswell. "I don't have much more to tell you
than what I already said."
She nodded. "Just a few questions." She shuffled
the notes she'd taken earlier, looked down at them briefly,
and then smiled faintly at Mr. Willard.
"You heard Jason's account of your interaction with him
at the time you confiscated his pen."
"Do you have anything to add to his account or do you
disagree in any way the substance of what he had to say?"
He shrugged. "He had an attitude. I had to fight to get
that pen out of his hand. And then he ordered me to cap it."
"Did you throw his pen on the floor?"
"I was aiming for the desk."
"And you missed?"
He smirked. "Yeah, I missed."
"Did you retrieve the pen from the floor after Jason
left the room?"
Mr. Willard shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "I
guess so," he replied.
"You guess so?" Miss Carswell repeated sarcastically.
"Well, I must have. Or else the janitor did later in
She narrowed her eyes. "Mr. Willard, do you have Jason's
"Not with me," he replied.
"At school?" she persisted.
He shrugged again. "I'm not sure."
"At home then?"
"Uh, no, I never took it home."
"If I order you to bring the pen back after dinner, Mr.
Willard, will you be able to do so?"
He smirked again. "I can't rightly say. I haven't seen
it around for a while."
I felt queasy and wondered if I could get up and walk out
to the water fountain near the men's room without throwing
"I think I've heard enough," Miss Carswell said.
Her voice sounded angry. "You have one hour for dinner,"
she announced to the assembled group. "And you, Mr. Willard,
will bring Jason's pen back here at the end of that hour."
She stood up, picked up her pen and notebook and started towards
the door. Before I had a chance to leave, however, I heard
her call my name and my mother's.
"Jason, Amanda, follow me, please!" she said. We
reversed direction and walked up towards the desk and door
behind it. She held the door open for us, and we followed
her into a small room that I hadn't noticed before.
The room was bare, except for a table and a chair. On the
table was the fedora hat I'd seen when Miss Carswell let me
use her pen before the hearing. There was also a leather case.
Miss Carswell walked over to the table and opened the case
and put the beautiful pen inside of it between the Sentinel
and another pen with a metal cap. Then she turned and offered
the chair to my mother.
"You don't mind, do you, Jason, if we let your mother
sit down. There is only one chair, after all."
I could tell that mom really didn't want to sit down, but
she was too intimidated by Miss Carswell to refuse.
I looked at Miss Carswell who was looking intently at me.
She smiled, and it was a real smile, not a smirk.
"Are you holding up okay?" she asked gently. "You
looked a little green in there for a minute."
I nodded. "The pen is gone, isn't it?" I asked.
I couldn't help myself.
She grimaced. "I'm afraid so. I'm very sorry, Jason."
I nodded again, feeling almost as empty as right after Grandpa
Edgar had died. "That's why he didn't bring it back with
him, isn't it?"
"Most likely," she replied. "He tried to pass
off a green roller as an Esterbrook. What a fool!" She
shook her head and snorted, much to my mother's consternation.
"So what happens now?" I asked.
"Shh," my mother hushed me.
Miss Carswell looked at her. "It's all right, Amanda,"
she said, and my mother nearly fell off the chair.
"If Mr. Willard comes back without your pen, I shall
hold a conference with Mr. DeContreni and Dr. McCallister
as well as Mr. Willard. I shall inform them that I have reason
to believe that your property was wrongfully and maliciously
destroyed and ask them to make restitution. In fact, I may
share my suspicions with Mr. DeContreni before we resume our
hearing since he has no vested interest in blaming you and
may therefore be more likely to listen to reason."
"And the suspension?" my mother asked.
"I haven't decided what to make of that," Miss Carswell
My mom started to protest, but this time I hushed her. "It's
okay, Mom. She's fair. Whatever she decides will be right."
My mom looked at me in amazement.
"But it was so obviously unjust," she protested.
I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. "I'm willing
to let Miss Carswell decide. And I think you should too."
"Very well, then," Miss Carswell interjected. "Now
you two need to get something to eat and come back here in
time for the rest of the evening's entertainment."
Mom stood up, but I wasn't sure she'd be able to walk on her
own, she was so bewildered.
"Entertainment?" she echoed, looking at Miss Carswell.
"The fun is just beginning, Amanda," the old woman
replied, her eyes narrowing. "I'm sorry your pen was
destroyed, Jason," she added. "I think Mr. Willard
is going to be sorrier, though."
As we were leaving she added, "By the way, you can send
Ed Conley home. No need to pay him for any more hours than
you have to."